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04 March, 2014

Interview: Mad Fellows Talk Salvage, Dubstep and Quitting AAA for Indie

Yesterday we reported that two man dev team Mad Fellows recently announced its first project, the music rhythm game Salvage. Here at Grab It Indie Games Magazine, we're quite excited by what we've seen thus far. If you can imagine a mash up between games like Avoid Sensory Overload and Boson X, all to the heavy beats of dubsteppers Zomboy, SKisM and Noisia, it's not difficult to see why we're excited about this entry into the growing "rhythm" genre. The icing on the cake is that Salvage is in the capable hands of industry veterans Dan Horbury (DJ Hero) and Paul Norris (DJ Hero & Guitar Hero).

We caught up with co-founder Paul Norris to find out some world exclusive details on what we can expect Salvage to deliver.

You guys have a long pedigree in making quality music games - they certainly don’t get any bigger than Guitar Hero or DJ Hero. What led you to branch out on your own and form Mad Fellows?
It's something we always wanted to do. As console teams get bigger and bigger, jobs get focused into smaller and more specific areas. Dan and I always enjoyed swapping between roles depending on what the project required. There's not much room for that in AAA development these days. We noticed we were increasingly jealous of the small indie teams that could take risks and try new things. We decided to just take the plunge and go for it.

[For more on this topic, check out article Ken Levine Jumped Off a Sinking Ship]

How did the idea for Salvage come about? Was it a fairly natural decision given your significant experience in making music games?
Actually, we were working on something completely different in the first weeks of setting up [the studio] that wasn't a rhythm game at all. The idea for Salvage came from drawing while listening to music. I initially intended to put it aside for a later date, but we kept talking about it. Adding bits to the design, mocking things up. Eventually we shelved the original project and carried on with Salvage instead. With a history in both racing and music games, the framework came together pretty quickly.

The list of artists you’ve got lined up already reads like a “who’s who” on the electronic/dubstep scene. How did you go about getting your heads around the artists you wanted to approach? 
We're very lucky to have those guys in the game. I produce music myself and the original plan was for me to write the music. While prototyping, we just put our favourite tunes in there as placeholders. It was so good and played so well that we contacted Noisia and Zomboy's people to see what they thought. Luckily for us, they liked it.

Do you think Salvage will be attractive to people who may not be in to the dubstep scene?
Our priority is making the game as much fun as possible. We chose tracks that were the most fun to play to, so I'd hope if people aren't really into the scene they'd still be able to appreciate the gameplay. Personally, I find that playing music games is a really good way to get into new music as you're not just passively hearing it, you're really focused on it.

The brief video teaser we’ve seen indicates Salvage is shaping up to be quite a challenging game. How have you gone about ensuring a good balance between quality music, but also quality gameplay?
That's SKisM - Red Heat on expert difficulty [in the trailer - below]! There's three difficulty levels and each is very carefully designed to be compelling and connected to the music. We pay a lot of attention to making sure that, for example, playing "normal" difficulty is setting you up for moving on to "hard" levels. There's no big spikes or jumps between the difficulty levels. Before you know it you're trying to get 100% on "expert." We decided early on that we wouldn't ever include a song that wasn't great fun to play just because it was popular. If we did that, the game would be compromised and ultimately bad for us, the players and the artists. Fortunately, with the artists we have, there's no shortage of awesome material and we have the best of both worlds!

Can we look forward to more information on gameplay details and a release date in the near future?
Absolutely! Follow us on @MadFellowsGames and Facebook - we'll be announcing details of the release soon.

Also, if you want to discover great new iPad games, be sure to check out Issue 1 of Grab It - The Game Discovery App. It includes 22 in-depth reviews of indie iPad games, 14 exclusive interviews, five big features, top 10s, opinions, news, videos, soundtracks and more - it all starts with our big world exclusive reveal for the amazing Thralled.

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